Secret Instructions of the Jesuits - Diego Laynez




Chapter VII:
How Widows are Retained

How widows are to be retained; and how to dispose of the goods which they may leave.

I. Let them be urged constantly to go on in their devotion, and good works, so that no week may pass in which they do not retrench spontaneously some of their superfluities, for the honor of Christ, the blessed Virgin, or their patron saint; which let them give to the poor, or devote to the decoration of temples, till they are divested of the most of these treasures, like the first fruits of Egypt.

II. But if besides their common affection, they show a liberality to this society, and continue stedfast; let them become partakers of all the merits of the society, by the special indulgence of the provincial, or even of the general, if they be eminent persons.

III. If they have taken a vow of chastity, let them renew it, according to our custom, twice a year; innocent recreation being conceded to them, on that day with our members.

IV. Let them be frequently visited, entertained and amused with agreeable conversations and stories, spiritual and facetious, according to each one's humor and inclination.

V. Let them not be too rigidly treated in confession, lest they become too morose; except where the hope be lost of regaining the favor of those enticed from us, in which case great discretion is to be exercised on account of the characteristic inconstancy of women.

VI. Let them be carefully kept from the visitations and festivals of other churches, especially those of the religious orders; and let it be impressed upon them that all the indulgences of other orders are abundant in our society.

VII. If any mourning-dress be required by them, let it be of a becoming elegance, having an air at once religious and fashionable, lest they think themselves governed entirely by their spiritual guide; and if there should not be any danger of inconstancy, and they should be found faithful and liberal towards the society, let what they may require for sensuality be granted them moderately, scandal being avoided.

VIII. Let other ladies who are young and respectable, and descended from rich and noble parents, be placed with widows, that they by degrees become accustomed to our direction and manner of living: over these let some female preside, elected and appointed for this purpose, by the confessor of the whole family; let them be subject to the decisions and other established rules of the society, and let those who will not accommodate themselves to them, be sent to their parents or others, by whom they were brought to us; and let them be described as perverse and of an ungovernable disposition, etc.

IX. Nor should less care be taken of their health and amusements than of their safety; wherefore if any complain of indisposition, at once let all fasting, the use of the hair-shirt, and of bodily penances, be forbidden; nor let them be permitted to go even to church, but secretly and cautiously let them be administered to at home; let their visits to gardens and colleges, provided they be secret, pass unnoticed; and let their intercourse and private amusements, with those whom they most delight in, be connived at.

X. To obtain such a disposal of the revenues which any widow may have as will be favorable to the society, let the perfection of the state of holy men, be exhibited, who having left the world, renounced their parents and possessions, with great resignation and cheerfulness of mind, have served God. And for this end let what is contained in the constitution and rules of the society, about this kind of renunciation and self-denial of all things, be explained in order. Let other examples be adduced of widows who thus in a short time have been sanctified, and obtained hope of canonization, if they should thus persevere to the end; and let it be shown to them that for this object our influence with the pope shall not be wanting.

XI. Let this be firmly impressed upon them, that if their consciences would enjoy perfect tranquility, the direction of the confessor, as well in temporal as in spiritual things, is to be as implicitly followed, without murmuring, reluctance or any inward reservation, as if particularly ordained by God himself.

XII. They are also to be properly instructed that even if they should give alms to ecclesiastics, or what is better, to the professed, and even those of respectable and exemplary lives, still they are not acceptable if given without the knowledge and approbation of the confessor.

XIII. Let the confessors most diligently take care that such widows as are their penitents should, under no pretext, visit persons of other religious orders, or enter into any familiarity with them; to prevent which they should endeavor at the proper time to exhibit the society as an order superior to all others, and most useful in the church; of greater authority with the pope, and all rulers; most perfect in itself, because it dismisses the hurtful and unfit, and so lives without the scum and dregs with which the monastic orders are infected, who mostly are ignorant, stupid, slothful, careless about their salvation, gormandisers, etc.

XIV. Let the confessors propose to them, and persuade them to give pensions and contributions, with which the ordinary yearly expenses of colleges and houses of the professed, especially that at Rome, may be discharged; neither should they be forgetful of the ornaments of the temple, and of wax-tapers, wine, etc., necessary for the celebration of the sacrifice of mass.

XV. But if any widow in her life should not have given to the society her whole estate, let a proper occasion be taken, and especially when she is laboring under severe indisposition and her life is in danger, to represent to her the indigence, recent foundation, and multitude of our colleges not yet endowed, and let her be encouraged to undertake those expenses as the foundation of her own eternal glory.

XVI. The same is to be done with rulers and other benefactors; for they are to be persuaded to say that these are the acts which are memorable in this world, and prepare eternal glory from God, for them in another; but if any malevolent persons should allege the example of Christ, who had not where he might lay his head, and wish the companions of Jesus to be also very poor, let it be shown and seriously impressed upon all, every where, that THE CHURCH OF GOD IS NOW CHANGED, AND MADE A MONARCHY, which ought to defend itself with great authority and power against the most powerful enemies, and that it is that little stone hewn out of a rock which increases to a very great mountain, as predicted by the prophets.

XVII. To those who are inclined to alms-giving, and to the adorning of churches, let it be shown that therein consists the greatest perfection; because extricating themselves from the love of worldly things they may make Christ himself and his companions possessors of them.

XVIII. But because we always expect less from widows who educate their children for the world, we will see.